How to Create a Winning Project Plan

If you’re contemplating executing a business project and want to be as prepared as you can be then we highly recommend you dig your teeth into the following information.

As Technopedia defines it, a project plan is a formal document that is intended to serve as a roadmap from start to finish of a contemplated project. The plan is made up of elements such as resources used, milestones, and timing to name a few.

The plan is designed to guide the control and execution of a project, and it is the key to a successful project and is the most important document that needs to be created when starting any business project.

It is used for the following purposes:

  • To document and communicate stakeholder products and project expectations
  • To control schedule and delivery
  • To calculate and manage associated risks

The plan answers the essential questions about the project, including the following, also noted by Technopedia:

  • Why? – What is the task related to the project?
  • What? – What are the activities required to successfully complete the project? What are the main products or deliverables?
  • Who? – Who will take part in the project and what are their responsibilities during the project? How can they be organized?
  • When? – What exactly is the project schedule and when can the milestones be completed?

The initiation of a project requires detailed and vital documentation to track project requirements, functionalities, scheduling and budget. Formal project plans establish detailed project requirements, including human and financial resources, communications, projected time lines and risk management.

The following seven steps, as noted by Wrike and Computer Weekly, show how to create a successful project plan:

Step 1: Identify and Meet with Stakeholders

A stakeholder is anyone who’s affected by the results of your project. That includes your customers and end users, too. Make sure you identify all stakeholders and keep their interests in mind when you create your project plan. Meet with the project sponsors and key stakeholders to discuss their needs and expectations, and establish baselines for project scope, budget, and timeline.

Create a Scope Statement document to finalize and record the details of the project scope. The project scope statement is arguably the most important document in the project plan. It is used to get common agreement among the stakeholders about the project definition. It is the basis for getting the buy-in and agreement from the sponsor and other stakeholders and decreases the chances of miscommunication. This document will most likely grow and change with the life of the project.

Step 2: Baselines

Components of the project plan include:

  • Baselines: These are sometimes called performance measures because the performance of the entire project is measured against them. These are used to determine whether or not the project is on track during execution

Step 3: Set & Prioritize Goals

Prioritize stakeholder needs and set specific project goals. These should outline the objectives of the project — the benefits you hope to accomplish.

Step 4: Define Deliverables

Identify the deliverables you need to produce in order to meet the project’s goals. What are the specific products you’re expected to complete? Estimate due dates for each deliverable in your project plan. (You can actually finalize dates when you sit down to define your project schedule in the next step.)

Step 5: Create the Project Schedule

Look at each deliverable and define the series of tasks that need to be completed in order to accomplish each one. Next, identify any dependencies. Do certain tasks need to be completed before others can begin? Input deliverables, dependencies, and milestones into an app similar to a Gantt chart. Involve your team in some of the planning process. The people doing the work have important insights into how tasks get done, how long they’ll take, and who’s the best person to tackle specific tasks.

Step 6: Identify Issues and Complete a Risk Assessment

Are there any issues that you know of upfront that will affect your project, like a key team member’s upcoming vacation? What unforeseen circumstances could create hiccups? (Think cold & flu season, backordered parts, or technical issues.) Consider the steps you could take to either prevent certain risks from happening, or limit their negative impact. Conduct a risk assessment and develop a risk management strategy to make sure you’re prepared.

Step 7: Present the Project Plan to Stakeholders

Explain how your plan addresses stakeholders’ expectations, and present your solutions to any conflicts. Determine roles: who needs to see which reports, and how often? Which decisions will need to be approved, and by whom? Make sure stakeholders know exactly what’s expected of them, and what actions they’re responsible for. Instead of telling stakeholders that their expectation or request is unrealistic, tell them what’s required to make it happen: how much time, money, or manpower? Let them decide if it’s worth dedicating the extra resources.

In short, project planning doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated. However, project planning does need to be thorough if it’s going to be a useful tool for tapping into its potential rewards.